I’m a twenty one year old woman in the land of plenty eating like a diabetic and I FEEL AMAZING! Recently, I read the book Fat Chance by Robert Lustig and through this book, I was convinced by a friend to give up sugar and most complex carbs (like bread and potatoes). I was seeing the results happen to this friend before my eyes. With each Skype conversation he seemed to look healthier and seemed to feel better so I figured I would give it a try. I had the evidence, theoretical and practical. Nothing was stopping me. Eating “well” leads to having a healthy body, and since the mind and the body are one and the same, a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. All of this is crucial to self care, one of my biggest personal priorities.
Sugar is a major addiction that most of us have in the United States; this addiction is growing world wide. Cutting that addiction out has been difficult and I haven’t been perfect. One cheat day and six days of “clean” eating per week has opened my eyes to the possibilities for my physical health and overall well being. It’s been three weeks since I started this new lifestyle and my diligence has increased over time. I don’t have the cravings and I don’t sneak bites of dessert anymore. I’m well on my way to cutting sugar completely out of my life, as well as these extra pounds.
Cutting sugar out of my life has been difficult mostly because of my environment. Since I’m on my school’s meal plan, I’m forced to eat what’s in the dining hall and often, the options are not pretty. For example, today as a part of my breakfast I shaved off apple peels to dip in natural peanut butter just to avoid the available food that was jam packed with high fructose corn syrup and sugar.
I’ve always found eating healthy so much easier in the Caribbean. We complain that our grocery stores don’t have options. We fantasize and dream of a world where we can access all the McDonalds, Cocoa Puffs and Cadbury chocolate that we could ever possibly need. Maybe our lack of access to these unhealthy options isn’t such a bad thing. Healthy food is relatively affordable in the Caribbean compared to fast food (even with VAT). The cost of burger doesn’t beat out the cost of lentils and chicken. You can’t say the same for many regions of the United States.
As I’ve traveled from home to the United States a number of times over the past nine years, I’ve noticed changes in the health of the population. Metabolic syndrome, hypertension and diabetes seem to be on the rise and I can’t help but wonder if a part of it is an increase in unhealthy eating. If healthy eating is easier in the Caribbean than it is in the United States, why do we still make the unhealthy choices? Perhaps, we associate these unhealthy foods with the sought after American lifestyle. We associate the American lifestyle with wealth. So in our quest for wealth or perceived wealth, we forget something much more important: our health.
In the coming years, what we need more than anything isn’t to give West Indians more access to fast food chains or cheap sugary foods. These glorified American foods are not necessary! We need to work on ensuring that the population is encouraged and enabled to make the right choices when it comes to health and eating. This doesn’t mean increasing education about health. That relies on the faulty assumption that people want to and choose to be unhealthy. They don’t always. We need to make sure there’s access to the healthy foods so that making the right choices is easy and automatic. Rather than fighting heart disease or diabetes as it comes, it would be wise to focus on prevention to make sure our population is spared these harmful effects of unhealthy eating.